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Discussion > The price of fracking

Golf Charlie

A friend of mine lives on a minor road leading to an open cast gold mine outside Omagh. Large spoil tips built up as they dug down to the gold bearing layers, but traffic was light because only the ore left the site.

Then 15 miles of new dual carriageway was built on the Belfast road. The mining company sold the spoil to the road contractors to build the embankments and for three years there was a lot of lorry traffic going up the hill empty and coming down full.

It destroyed the minor road. Credit to the contractors. They did relay that minor road afterwards.

Nov 11, 2016 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Golf Charlie

An interesting time-lapse of a fracking site being built and drilled

I found a planning application which quoted 950 lorry movements for a typical fracking operation.

I don't know how many lorry movements you need for site preparation, but a wind turbine has three blades, three tower sections and a nacelle. That is seven outsize lorry loads per turbine. For a 25 turbine farm that is 175 lorries.

Nov 11, 2016 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

EM. The tiny wind turbine in the foreground looks rather superfluous.

Nov 11, 2016 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterACK

That is seven outsize lorry loads per turbine. For a 25 turbine farm that is 175 lorries.

Nov 11, 2016 at 2:59 PM | Entropic man

How many lorry loads of readymix concrete per base for a windturbine? Those lorrys have tight timetables to work to, before they end up with a solid load., and then there are the mobile cranes to erect it all etc

EM thanks for supplying some info, but that info is not quite the whole picture or scale for a fair comparison.

Nov 11, 2016 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Golf Charlie

I've given you a start, perhaps you can do the rest.

Nov 11, 2016 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

golfCharlie. Don't forget a well pad uses a comparable quantity of cement/concrete and the drilling rig is erected by cranes. Furthermore the whole drilling string has to be brought to the site and removed. Then there is all the casing to line the well. My guess is that, in terms of traffic, a fracked well could easily involve an order of magnitude more than the installation of a wind turbine.

Nov 11, 2016 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterACK

EM and ACK, thank you for your responses.

Along with my misplaced post to ACK on Unthreaded, the idea that Wind Turbines are not noisy and disruptive during construction is rubbish. In the short term, there probably is not a big difference between noise and vehicle movements for a fracking site, and a windturbine. The Green Blob do not mention that.

The noise and traffic disruption from Fracking in the UK remains unknown.

Tanker movements are a big unknown for the drilling and fracking process. Pressurised mains water pipework covers a far greater percentage of the UK than USA. Can fracking fluid be mixed from concentrate and diluted on site with pipe fed water supplies?

Those rural areas that had dairy herds will have had roads capable of supporting daily milk tanker lorries, possibly NOT articulated lorries. Does UK strata require more or less tankered fracking fluid than the USA? Despite lower speed limits, the USA has always demanded larger cars with bigger engines. Has the USA ever tried to frack with less?

Nov 11, 2016 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

EM and ACK, have viewed the time lapse video. Very helpful thank you. A large site was cleared, concrete was laid for a substantial vehicle parking area and materials store. It would have acted as a containment "bund" for any spilled oils and fluid.

ACK, I think the little WindGen in the foreground managed to produce enough electricity for the cameraman to have a hot coffee by the end.

Nov 11, 2016 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Good Charlie, ACK

You need 1000 tons of concrete + rebar per foundation. The concrete is mixed on site, so for a 25 turbine farm 25,000 tons of material is needed at 28 tons per load, that is 892 lorry loads.

Hardcore for roads and support stands comes from borrow pits on site, so comes at no lorry movement cost.

So far that is 175+892=1067 movements. Add another 10% for miscellaneous movements for cable etc and you get 1173 movements for a 25 turbine windfarm.

Within the uncertainties, the lorry movements needed to produce a fracking pad and a windfarm look comparable.

However, are we comparing like with like?

My windfarm has 25 turbines rated at 2MW each. The site is rated at 50MW(megawatts). At a capacity rating of 25% that produces 110,000MWh per year.

An average Marcellus well produces 1.800,000Mcf(thousand cubic feet) per year. At 0.01Mcf/kW that could generate 180MWh per year.

Assuming 10 wells/site that gives 1800MWh per site per year.

You therefore need 61 fracking sites to match the electricity generated by one wind farm.

If you are thinking in terms of MWh per lorry movement each wind farm movement is worth 94MWh.

For fracking each lorry movement is worth 1.9MWh.

The wind farm wins hands down.

Nov 11, 2016 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

ACK, golf Charlie

That windmill probably not generating anything much. It is measuring wind speed and direction.

Nov 11, 2016 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

EM thanks will respond later.

Nov 11, 2016 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The noise and traffic disruption from Fracking in the UK remains unknown.
Which is odd, considering that it has happened in several locations, already. I wonder how disturbed the residents of the Fylde were when the sites were fracked there?

Anyhoo… there is now the opportunity to redress that lack of data arising. However, the siting of the observation stations will have to be very carefully considered, else there could be some confusion with the noise and traffic associated with Flamingoland, and we can’t have that, can we?

EM: looking at the many various operations in the Highlands, the damage to the roads and surrounds is quite significant, and the contractors seem unwilling to admit responsibility. Also, how deep to these “borrow pits” have to be to get the required materials from below the moorland peat? And, what about the infrastructure of roads required to get to each turbine "pad" for construction and maintenance?

Nov 11, 2016 at 5:57 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical Rodent

Perhaps Ulster contractors take their social responsibilities more seriously than their Scottish equivalents.

The peat on on my hill is about 1 metre deep. To make a borrow pit you would dig down to bedrock, break it up into hardcore and then use the hardcore to build the access roads, crane pads and support pads. IIRC they used about 20,000 cubic metres for a 10 turbine farm.

Walking Bessy Bell recently the access roads are still there, but the material for the pads, perhaps half of the total, was put back and buried in the original peat.. 20 years later the original vegetation has grown back. The pad and pit locations are no longer visible..

Nov 11, 2016 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Radical Rodent

If you mean the size of the pits, for 10,000 cubic metres you would need to remove the peat from a 100m*100m pit and then dig 1m deep into the rock.. If you cut deeper, you can use a smaller area. I imagine that there is an optimum ratio of area and depth which depends on the geology of the site and the depth of the peat. Thicker peat would encourage a smaller, deeper borrow pit.

Nov 11, 2016 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

EM & Radical Rodent

Just a brief comment for the mathematicians.

In the video EM linked to, the square area is over 100m x 100m. The quantities of excavated material, plus replacement with concrete 150mm thick(?) minimum is large. If the area is 150m x 150m, the volumes go up a lot.

Do we know what size hardstanding has been applied for in UK Planning Applications?

I have not checked, but suspect we are being asked to compare the cost of a crate of apples, with a single apple.

Nov 11, 2016 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

EM, in your post extolling the merits of wind turbines you are quoting assumptions about capacity and rated capacity.

This is the sort of misinformation that Myron Ebell might ask the EPA to carry out some actual assessments of.

In the UK, Planning Committees at District Councils are never offered genuine information by subsidy farmers.

Wind fails. Thumbs down.

From a construction point of view, your sums are not based on genuine assumptions. For example, how big an area will be required for 25 windturbines? If you mix the concrete at one point, how do you distribute it? Rebar is an Americanism. You can move 28 tons of aggregate with a UK lorry, but not 28 tons of wet concrete. It does not make sense.

Nov 12, 2016 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Entropic man

Re your figures for gas production from a fracked well. As you know I like to check things out.

I found this

Which gives Marcellus new well production as more than 12,000Mcf per day, which equates to about 4,300,000Mcf per year. From the graphs production does tail off, but I'm not clear on by how much for wells currently being created. But at two and a half times your figure I suspect that the average before re-fracking will be significantly higher that the numbers you've quoted.

You failed to mention that the gas production is continuous and can be planned. In order to produce electricity 24/7, discounting a fossil fuel backup, Your windfarm will need something like pumped storage or batteries or Hydrogen or ? All of which should really be added into the equation.

Finally you can download quarterly well data from Ohio Utica at, which you can use to confirm what you say.

Nov 12, 2016 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Golf Charlie, radical rodent

All the figures are publicly available, though you have to hop around a bit to find them all.

There are lots of data for gas output,but I had to calculate the equivalent electricity output equivalent of a pad for myself.

The uncertainties are smaller than you think. Thousands of pads have been built in the US, in a more favourable regulatory environment than the UK. I used US data. UK data, if/when it comes, is unlikely to be better once our regulations are tighter.

You don't bring wet concrete onto the site. You bring loads of cement and sand in from outside. You then mix them on site and distribute the wet concrete in the usual 6 cubic metre mixer lorries.

Nov 12, 2016 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Entropic man
The peat around where I grew up in Central Perthshire is at least 2 or 3 metres deep. You can stand on the bedrock at the bottom of a peat hag and have a peat wall twice your height confront you. Grouse beaters hate Peat Hags because they are so difficult to cross. Digging down to the bedrock by removing the peat is a bit of an environmentally hostile act. There is an awful lot of campaigning against draining peat bogs at the moment build turbines and access roads which are more damaging seems somehow ironic.

Shooting estates used to build access roads for Land Rovers (other 4x4 are available) to butts by "floating" a wooden causeway on top of the peat and avoiding areas of sphagnum moss. It's unlikely you can do that for lorry loads of concrete.

Nov 12, 2016 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

EM, just because information is publicly available, does not mean it is accurate or honest. Unfortunately it seems you have been directed to unreliable sources for inaccurate and misleading data.

The construction industry sums are wrong, and SandyS has pointed out flaws in the energy produced.

If this is how Unreliable energy has been sold to politicians, the industry can expect some hostile responses in the UK and EU, not just the USA.

Nov 12, 2016 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

General question to anyone who knows the answer, how well does concrete survive when in a wet acidic environment?

Nov 12, 2016 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Entropic man
Where does the water come from to mix the dry concrete? Although peat bogs hold a lot of water it is acidic and there aren't that many ponds/lakes.lochs where turbines are going to be most productive that don't contain peat contaminated water..

Nov 12, 2016 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Please note that this whole discussion has veered, largely impelled by Gwen's "irresponsible" and unnecessarily comparison between the negative impacts on people of a fracked well and a wind turbine. The main point is that any drilling of a well is very disruptive in a densely populated country like Britain. There can be no comparison about the relative amounts of disruption. Erecting a turbine does not involve the introduction and removal of 10,000 ft or so of drilling pipe (needed in Lancashire), the mixing and final removal of high density drilling mud in amounts sufficient to fill a hole of the same depth, the importation of well casing (some significant proportion of the total well depth), several to many huge high pressure pumps and many browsers (at the same time) for the water introduced during fracking, and the transport away from the site of the backflush.

Nov 12, 2016 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

SandyS, concrete does not mind being wet, but being alkaline, it does react with acid. Take a piece of limestone or mortar or concrete and put it in coca cola. Or drip some vinegar onto a pit of limestone, cement or concrete!

Steel does not rust in an alkaline environment like concrete. Change the pH, it rusts and expands, and cracks the concrete.

Does that answer your question or is there another?!

Nov 12, 2016 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

ACK, there is so much deliberately false information about fracking being pushed about by lying pressure groups.

As yet, there is no genuine research being carried out in the UK, because of panic mongering and lies. Allegations of contamination of ground water in the USA have involved extensive and elaborate fraud.

You have a better understanding than most of the geology, and how that can produce anomalous results for the pro and anti arguments.

I have some understanding and experience of whacking screws into wet concrete with left hand drive hammers.

EM is quoting figures, presumably supplied from the US, that would not pass inspection in the US. You can't pick a cherry and then say it is a pineapple.

Nov 12, 2016 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie